It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the medical world stood still when powdered medical gloves received the ultimate legal boot. In 2016 The FDA ruled that the powder posed an “unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury” to patients by way of airway inflammation, tissue hypersensitivity, allergic reactions, and asthmatic triggers.
For context, let’s go through all the other medical devices banned by the FDA:
- Synthetic Hair Fibers (effective 1983)
That’s it, that’s the whole list.
This many years without a banned medical device bodes unexpectedly well for the safety of healthcare technology. What a treat it is, seeking healthcare without going through revolving doors of experimental contraptions that must be slapped away with bans left and right.
It’s no coincidence the powdered glove ban as it pertains to latex or nitrile gloves, arrived alongside the rise of the information age. Decades of research and case studies are catching up to methods once thought to be sufficiently harmless. More importantly, it emphasizes that the FDA doesn’t issue these bans willy-nilly—the 1983 ban arrived seven years after the FDA had the authority to halt medical device distribution. Something as invasive as manufactured hair is the type of thing you’d expect to see on this list… but powdered sterile gloves? How could they pose threats as dramatic as foreign substances sewn into the head?
The ban reference documents for powdered latex or nitrile gloves included a study by two New Zealand doctors from all the way back in 1974, which discouraged the use of powdered gloves. They found the powder (made from cornstarch) to be considered “inert” by many doctors, yet as the number of reported cases of reactions to powder-contact grew, few medical practitioners were aware of those incidents and continued using powdered sterile gloves unknowingly. The study acknowledged that while unfavorable infections or irritations from glove powder were reported infrequently, many cases likely went undiagnosed, as symptoms could take anywhere from a few days to 2-4 weeks to develop.
Another reference document in favor of the ban stated that while sales of powdered medical gloves were in decline around the year 2000, total glove sales continued to be on the rise. By the time the ban was proposed in 2016, it’s estimated that powdered gloves made up only about 7% percent of total glove sales (Global Industry Analysts Inc., 2008). To the FDA’s credit, their intervening justice didn’t rely on the number of people affected, but rather on their ability to protect patients from a well-documented and avoidable device.
According to the ban document itself (available for free reading at www.federalregister.gov), some were less than thrilled to wave powderless goodbyes to their once-trusty supplies. In a 30-day comment period preceding the ban, objectors cited hyperhidrosis, double gloving difficulties, tear-prone worries, exposure to patient fluids, comfort/dexterity, and heightened costs as reasons to reconsider a total ban. The FDA swiftly denied each of these claims, asking those who opposed the ban to recall that patient safety outweighs any allegiance to glove features whatsoever. You tell ‘em, FDA!
Choosing Latex- or Nitrile-Free Gloves
Even today, powdered gloves and often latex or nitrile gloves are still considered potentially hazardous for medical professionals and patients with allergies. That is why technology has allowed room for new types of sterile gloves to hit the market, offering medical professionals a variety of options that help them stay safe, while still performing their job optimally.
At Clinical Supply Company we do our best to offer a full range of sterile medical gloves to ensure we have an option that keeps everyone safe. Choose from our Posi-Prene Edge powder-free medical gloves for a natural fit that offers the same trusted strength as a traditional exam glove. Or, opt for traditional Posi-Prene powder-free medical gloves. These make the perfect choice because they offer all the benefits of a synthetic glove without the latex or nitrile gloves that have been proven to cause allergic reactions.
Shop our full selection of medical exam gloves to find the options that are FDA-approved and safe for your entire medical staff and patients. We proudly offer one of the best selections of Posi-Prone gloves and Posi-Shield Nitrile or Latex gloves. Browse today.